Last week Jackson and I flew to Colorado to stay at my mom’s for a few days. It was one of the best visits we’ve had there. Jackson adores his Nonny and Poppy and he’s finally big enough to really play with his big cousin George, whom he thinks hung the moon. Jackson asks for George every day. Every single day. So we watch a lot of videos to hold him over between visits. And George is so good and patient with his little cousin.
The day we flew in, May 1, it snowed and snowed and snowed all day. Not your typical spring visit, but we made the best of it. It’s not every year you see snow in May.
The next day, we had pictures scheduled for the book. The sun came out, the snow mostly melted and we were able to get some great shots thanks to our fabulous photographer Molly McMillan. This one will be used for the back cover.
Because one of us is usually behind the camera, I don’t have many pictures of me and my mom. These pictures are one of the many blessings that have come from doing this blog and book together.
After the photo shoot, we were pretty wiped out…and hungry! We both declared we were retiring from our one-day modeling career. Way too much work and not enough food!
With my sister-in-law Julie heading back to the house with the boys and Greg (mom’s husband) on his way home, we quickly transitioned from top models to cooks in the kitchen. Mom was going to run to the grocery store to get fixins for Messy Greek Sandwiches and Reubens and I’d get started on some kind of soup to go along. I rummaged through her pantry and held up a bag of lentils, “How about lentil soup?” “Perfect! I’ve had those lentils for months and wasn’t sure what to do with them,” she admitted. “Oh it’s so easy,” I told her. “It takes no time to get started and will be finished simmering by the time you’re back from the store.” Mom headed to the grocery store and I got started chopping onions and carrots. By the time Julie walked in with Jackson and George, I had the soup covered and simmering, happy to step out of my author/foodie hat and into mommy and auntie role again.
Mom came home from the store and said the house smelled just like her Nonny’s, my great grandmother’s, kitchen. I didn’t know her well, but I’ve heard story after story of her in the kitchen. She was quite the cook. One of my favorite pictures of her is one of her standing in her old 1950s kitchen with a yellow apron tied around her neck. Something about recreating the comforting tastes and smells from her kitchen makes me feel connected to her. I can imagine her cooking up a simple soup like this to feed her nine children on their very tight budget.
What foods and smells bring back childhood memories for you?
Simple Lentil Soup
Makes 3.5 quarts
1/2 cup onion (~1 small or 1/4 big onion), diced
4 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
Olive oil (enough to coat pan)
1 lb lentils, sorted for rocks and rinsed
8 cups veggie broth (2 quarts)
1 32 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 teaspoons steak seasoning
Salt to taste (may not need if broth has salt)
In a large pot, sauté onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil (or 1/2 cup of broth for a no fat version) with a pinch of salt until softened. Add lentils and tomatoes and broth. Cover and bring to boil. Uncover and lower to a simmer. Cover and simmer on med low for 20-30 min until lentils are cooked through. Season with steak seasoning and salt if needed.
I served this with crackers, roasted brussel sprouts, and smoky garlicky collard greens. It was husband and toddler approved.
Notes: I’ve found the type of pan and burner I use causes cook times to vary a lot. My heavy duty pans cook much quicker on my flat top stove than my old cheapies that don’t have that nice heavy flat bottoms…so cooking times may vary. It took closer to 45 minutes to cook on my mom’s gas stove top, but I think I may have left the pot uncovered there. If your pots tend to heat up slowly, give yourself some extra time.
I have to admit, I’ve not been doing a lot of recipe creating lately. With the book editing and recipe testing process, I think I’ve caught a case of creativity burnout. When this happens, I know it’s time to break out my cookbooks and open up my pinterest boards and go back to where my passion for cooking began: following recipes. Following a good recipe is like doing a puzzle. Corners go here, edges go there, this piece goes here, this piece goes there … and before you know it you’ve methodically created something new and complete … and lovely … and hopefully delicious, in the case of recipes.
When I haven’t been following other people’s recipes lately, I’ve been throwing together salads and smoothies from the greens in my garden. This is my first year to have a garden. I’ve already killed all the tomatoes and peppers and most of the herbs, but my greens are growing like weeds. I’ve not made anything terribly innovate with them yet, but oh my goodness, the simple pleasure of walking out my back door, picking some fresh spinach or swiss chard and enjoying a meal with it minutes later. I have been missing out!
I plan on doing a garden post and a recipe round up post soon with some of the hits during my recipe creating hiatus and my adventures as a newbie gardener.
Though my creativity neurons took a leave of absence, I think they may be slowly returning. I’ve made a few very simple recipes the last few days that have knocked my socks off. Like canteloupe dressed with honey, lime, and cayenne pepper or Tajin seasoning. So simple, yet so delicious. Or like yesterdays breakfast, a Trail Mix Parfait: layered ingredients you’d typically find in trail mix, like nuts and seeds and dried fruit and chocolate, slightly warmed and topped with diced bananas. Can I just say, yum!! I just had it again and thought, maybe I finally have a recipe worth blogging after my long dry spell. It’s kind of a recipe that’s almost not a recipe, but it’s so good, it’s worth putting out there anyway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Other noteworthy updates:
- I’m guest pinning this week at The Christian Mama’s Guide facebook page on Cooking with Kids. Come join us there for fun ideas to get your kids excited about food. Just in time for summer when the kids will be home “helping” you in the kitchen, whether you like it or not!
- My lovely co-blogger and mother had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I totally missed a chance to do a birthday post. Mom, I love you! Happy Birthday. I cannot believe we get to share so much of our life together, from work to play, even when we are far away.
- Jackson and I are heading to Colorado this week to spend a few days at my mom’s. We’re taking publicity pictures for the book, having a meeting with our editor about the next book, and hopefully spending some quality time cooking together in the kitchen … with Jackson and my nephew George sitting on the counter helping us.
And now for that recipe I promised….
Trail Mix Parfaits
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, mixed nuts–I like unsalted walnuts or pecans best)
2 tablespoons dried fruit (like raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, or bananas)
1 tablespoon seeds (like hemp, sunflower, chias, or sesame)
2 tablespoons chocolate chips (I like the dairy-free, soy-free ones by Enjoy Life)
2 tablespoons diced bananas or yogurt (like So Delicious Coconut Yogurt)
In a glass bowl or glass, layer nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and chocolate chips. Warm in microwave for 30 seconds or until chocolate just starts to melt. Don’t let chocolate burn. Top with bananas and/or yogurt. Enjoy.
(Becky, the Mama.)
There’s something so right about snow in the winter. Chestnuts roasting, Jack Frost nipping, sleigh bells ringing… Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
But when it is mid-April and barely a daffodil has bloomed in my yard, there’s not a speck of green or a bud on the tree, and you look outside expecting to hear birds singing and instead you see snow blowing… it is just plain WRONG.
I adore Colorado ¾ of the year, but I’ve got to find a way to get outta here in Spring when my native Texas eyes long to behold green, my skin aches for the warmth of the sun, and the cook in me is ready to fire up the grill on the patio, and mix a refreshing cocktail as Greg and I visit on the porch swing.
Yesterday, while we were experiencing this out the patio door…
….I decided it was time to take the weather into our own hands. We’d simply have to make our own sunshine. Out came a bag of fragrant lemons and my handy juicer. Then, vodka and bottle of Italian lemoncello- a gift from my thoughtful friend Lucille, upon her return from Europe. Finally, just to show off, I pulled a fresh basket of raspberries out of the fridge and plopped them on the counter too.
Now then, wasn’t it pretty? Things were looking brighter already.
I do not like to boast, but may I just say, I make the best Lemon Drop Cocktails around? Not too sweet, not too tart. Plenty of real lemon flavor. And when you float a few brilliant red raspberries in this refreshing drink, and add a lovely twist of lemon peel, really, who cares if it’s April and there’s still stubborn case of Winter lingering outside your window?
Inside, we stayed happy and cuddled by the hearth, toasting the (eventual) coming of Spring.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer ~ Albert Camus
Ultimate Lemon Drop Martini with Fresh Raspberries
1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 part lemoncello liqueure (It is found in most liquor stores on the liqueur aisle. It is made from vodka, sugar and the zest of lemon)
1 part vodka
twist of lemon peel slice, and 3 fresh raspberries per glass
Ice for shaker
Sugar for rim, if desired
Pour first 3 ingredients over ice into a martini shaker. (For a generous martini, I use about a 1/4 cup of each “part” per person. For less Spring-deprived people, living in balmy southern climates, this will probably make enough for two people. But if you are still living in places where you are shoveling your driveway in mid-April, go for the generous pour.) Shake, shake, shake your winter blues out. Rub a bit of fresh lemon juice around the rim of a martini glass, then dip in a shallow plate of sugar to line the rim. Drop in 3 fresh raspberries and a twist of lemon peel.
* If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, add a little agave nectar or simple syrup.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title:Ultimate Lemon Drop Martini with Fresh Raspberries
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
Shauna Niequist, Nigella Lawson, and Me: Some personal thoughts on food, curves & the book, Bread & WinePosted: March 28, 2013
(Becky, the Mama.)
In a departure from our regular food-with-recipes-post, today I’m writing about my favorite chapter from a delightful new book, Bread & Wine, by Shuana Niequist. She describes the collection of essays as a “love letter to life around the table, with recipes.”
The whole book is fabulous, but Shauna wrote a particularly vulnerable chapter that immediately resonated with me, and one I imagine will touch many other readers.
Last week I penned this paragraph: “All my favorite people are people who have resigned from the race for signifance. Who have made peace with their regrets and their flaws, who gave up on perfection and embraced their humanity, who treat children and elderly with focused attention and patience, who leave a trail of laughter behind them and sincere, warm-hearted welcomes and hugs as you greet them. Who invite you put your feet up and relax and breathe free. The sort who offer benevolent acceptance, without pretense or competition.”
Then I read Niequist’s chapter titled, “hungry,” from Bread & Wine, and hastened to add a couple more lines to my thoughts above. “My favorite people are unashamedly hungry. They embrace, rather than stuff or deny, their God-given appetites.”
Shauna brilliantly describes a classic struggle for so many of us who are rounder than we want to be, or than our culture wants us to be. As a youth she began to associate natural hunger with shame, as thin people around her always seemed to “demur about food and hunger.”
Then she met Sarah, a friend who simply… ate what she wanted when she was hungry, without a trace of angst. “Sarah loved to eat and believed it was her right and a pleasure. She didn’t overeat or undereat, cry or hide food. She just ate, for sustenance and enjoyment, both, and I was fascinated.” Still it took Shauna many more years to speak the words, “I’m hungry,” without shame.
Part of the reason it took the author so long to make peace with true hunger is that she thought someday the competing issues of hunger and body image would simply…go away. That one day she’d win the battle and weight would no longer be an issue. “What I know now after all these years,” she writes, “is that there are some things you don’t get over, some things you just make friends with at a certain point, because they’ve been following you around like a stray dog for years.”
Shauna looks back over her life and realizes the fullness and beauty of it – she’s danced with her husband, kissed her babies cheeks, laughed with friends until she cried. Not being a size 6 never prevented her from these life-giving moments. The extra pounds never stopped her from all God’s good gifts, but the shame attached to it too often stole some measure of joy. “And so these days my heart and mind are focused less on the pounds and more on what it means to live without shame,” she writes.
Shauna confesses to read cookbooks, authored by the curvaceous home chef Nigella Lawson, like novels, before bedtime. “She’s not at all daunted or afraid of her appetite,” Niequist notes with admiration.
I’m a huge fan of Nigella as well – her cooking show, her books and her new role as judge on the show, The Taste. I’m loving that there are more real women with real bodies in the spotlight these days, like Nigella, like Shauna. Women with a little flesh on their backsides, a little wiggle in their walk, who echo back to the days when the bodies God actually gave us were the bodies men wanted. And in truth, if women turn off the TV and close the magazines, and spend some time talking to actual men, they will find as I have, that most men are still drawn to women with natural curves, in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Women like Nigella who unashamedly enjoy cooking and eating, who are comfortable with their curves, have a sense of a humor, flirt with subtlety (the slightly raised eyebrow, a slow sly smile) convey, “Yes, I’m a woman who enjoys and delights in all the sensual appetites, thank you very much. Now would you be so kind as to pass the cream?” Simply irresistible.
I tell my young unmarried friends, “A man who demands you be model thin, is a man who has no clue how to really love a woman. You do not want him. Trust me. These kinds of men are no fun to live with, make love to, or grow old with.”
Of course there is balance in everything. At age 53, I’ve assented that I’ll have to prioritize exercise to keep my brain functioning, my energy up, and my body healthy, if not svelte.
When I cook at home, I make food that is nourishing, colorful, and delicious – using lots of fruits and vegetables. I’m mostly vegetarian now and love it. I do not deny myself meat or a fabulous treat when I really want it. (Tonight I took myself out to a “working dinner,” alone, and indulged in a creamy butternut bisque, a dish of fried avocado with crème frieche and pico de gallo. Ordered a rich banana brulee for dessert. Savored every bite with a goblet of fabulous red wine.)
Do I long to drop a size or two? Yes, I’d like that very much. Perhaps it will happen.
Perhaps it will not.
At my age, I know what I’m willing to do, and also what I’m not willing to do anymore. I am finished stepping on scales. (Clothes tell the tale well enough.) I will not count calories. No diets. I do try to adhere to Michael Pollan’s simple advice, most days: “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” In fact, I stare in wonder at the colorful fruits and vegetables in a dizzying array of sizes and shapes at a Farmer’s Market, the way some gaze at an artist’s painting. Can’t wait to get them home and into a dish of my own creation. I will walk to the park with my grandson and I enjoy the elliptical as long as I can read while I work-out. I might venture into a Zumba class someday. I’ll not be taking a spin class, hot yoga, or power lifting.
I love food. I also try hard to love my own flawed but womanly body, my sweet life and the people in it. My family and my friends seem to love me back, just as I am. My husband treats me as though I am the most beautiful woman in the world, though I am only 5 ft. 2, and decidedly not-thin. People say that when I walk into a room, they can’t help notice Greg’s loving gaze in my direction. It is true, my man only has eyes for me. To me, this feels like a fresh miracle, day after day, year after year.
Most days, thankfully, that is gloriously, enough. (Though I will still sometimes sink into depression if I see an unflattering photo of myself. I’m working on that.)
In the last paragraphs of the chapter, Shauna writes, “I think about the sizzle of oil in a pan and the smell of rosemary released with a knife cut. And it could be that’s the way God made me the moment I was born, and it could be that’s the way God made me along the way as I’ve given up years of secrecy, denial, and embarrassment. It doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.”
And one thing she loves with passion is cooking, serving and enjoying good food. Shauna’s book is indeed a love story to food, to the table, to friends and family gathered around it. And to the God who created it all. It is also about coming to love herself, her body, just as she is, and relaxing into the peace this brings.
Bread & Wine is a welcome treat of a book to savor, like good chocolate, fine wine and dear friends. With a message every woman I know needs to hear.
About a month before I switched to a plant-based diet, I perfected the fried egg. I wasn’t much of a cook back then, so this was a big accomplishment and it quickly became my go-to breakfast. When we gave up eggs, I must admit, I was a little bummed that I only had a month to enjoy my perfected egg-frying skills. I’m over it now and I’ve learned some great ways to substitute eggs in my cooking: tofu scramble breakfast tacos and flax eggs and chia eggs for baking, but the fried egg seemed impossible to duplicate, until I got this idea to use a fried potato as the fluffy egg white and avocado as the creamy yolk. A “green egg” if you will.
For those transitioning to a vegan diet and facing those early egg cravings or for those just looking for something different than the traditional egg breakfast, this potato and avocado “fried egg” is delicious. It’s really hard to go wrong with fried anything, right? I could see using this green egg for a vegan eggs Benedict too, stacked on an English muffin with a creamy vegan hollandaise.
Try them! Try them! You will see. These green eggs are so easy. You can eat them in a box. You can eat them with a fox. You can make them for a friend, maybe during a relaxing weekend. You will like green eggs. You’ll see. Especially with tortillas, beans and ranchero sauce. Spicy!
(A Vegan Version of Huevos Rancheros)
Makes 4 servings
1/2 medium-sized onion,diced
1 garlic clove, diced or minced
3 small sweet peppers, red, yellow, or orange (or 1/2 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper), diced
~ 1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green chili peppers (or 4-ounce can)
~1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
~1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, to taste (can also blend in 1/4 of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce)
1 russet potato sliced thin (about a 1/4 inch thick–you want about 12 rounds or 3 per serving)
Oil to coat pan
Salt & pepper
4 Tortillas (smaller taco sized ones, not the big burrito ones)
1 Avocado, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
Refried pinto beans (I actually used leftover cajun red beans, cooked down and smashed)
Cilantro or chopped green onions (optional garnish)
In a deep-sided skillet or medium sauce pan, saute onion, peppers, and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on medium heat until soft. Add the tomatoes and green chilis and simmer for about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender (or use immersion blender) and blend until combined into a thick sauce, blend in salt and chipotle powder to taste. Transfer back to skillet and keep warm.
In a separate skillet (iron skillet works well for this), heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium heat (about a 1/8 inch thick).* Add a single layer of potato rounds and pan fry for 2-3 minutes per side until golden on the outside and soft in the middle (think texture of a french fry.) Transfer potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Repeat, adding oil to pan as needed, until all the rounds are fried.
In the same pan used to fry potatoes, drain off excess oil and warm tortillas.
Working quickly to keep food from getting cold, put each tortilla on a plate, smear tortillas with refried beans, down the middle stagger stacks of a potato round topped with an avocado round. Top with warm ranchero sauce and optional garnish of cilantro and/or green onions. Serve immediately. Eat with a fork or pick up and eat it like a taco.
*For a lighter version, toss potatoes in a light coating of olive oil and salt & pepper, line them on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and cook under the broiler for about five minutes on each side or until cooked through (like these Blistery Balsamic Potato Chips).
* Make it kid-friendly: (leave off the sauce or make a milder version without the chili peppers or chipotle powder)
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Potatoes Rancheros (Vegan Huevos Rancheros)
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Vz
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook